Mitsubishi Legnum VR-4 – A Fast JDM Family Wagon

Mitsubishi probably isn’t the first brand you’d think of if somebody asked you to name a manufacturer that has built a “fast wagon”.

Audi is perhaps the incumbent in the go-fast-family-wagon stakes, with Subaru being the Japanese pack leader (although sadly not so much any more with the demise of the Legacy GT) and Volvo being the left-field choice.

However, back in its ‘glory days’ (before transitioning to selling a competent, albeit very uninspiring, range of crossovers and PHEV vehicles) Mitsubishi actually built some great sport wagons, particularly for the Japanese domestic market.

One example was the Libero GT, which was effectively a Lancer GSR wagon:

An example of the Libero GT (with some mods) which was basically a Mitsubishi Lancer GSR wagon for the Japanese market. Credit:

And who can forget the rare, genuine Evo wagon – a true “JDM gem”, featuring prominently in our list of the best JDM wagons.

But there is another Mitsubishi fast wagon I want to focus on in today’s edition of Forgotten Heroes – one that managed to blend performance with genuine practicality and luxury touches … the Mitsubishi Legnum VR4.

Once upon a time, the Legnum VR4 and its sedan sibling (the Galant) were fairly common sights on NZ roads. Whether you preferred a wagon or a sedan shape, this was one of those cars that an aspiring car enthusiast could get into relatively cheaply. I distinctly remember going with my dad to test drive a Galant VR-4 in about 2008, in great condition, with the seller wanting around $6000 NZD. That same car would be pushing $20k now, if you could find one.

Age, mileage, insufficient maintenance and the odd high-speed incident or two have whittled down the fleet and the days of easily picking up a Legnum VR-4 are long gone. Along with the Galant, the Legnum also had a tendency to fall into the hands of “boy racers” who would poorly modify and rag on these unsuspecting JDM heroes.

With that in mind, I thought it would be appropriate to write up another instalment in my ‘Forgotten Heroes’ series where I cover the history of various interesting cars, typically JDM VIP and performance vehicles. 

What Is The Mitsubishi Legnum VR-4?

Long story short, the Legnum VR-4 was the high-performance version of the Legnum – the JDM wagon version of the eighth generation Mitsubishi Galant, which debuted in 1996 and ran until 2002 with a mid-generation facelift in 1998. 

The Galant VR-4 wasn’t a new concept, with this range-topping powerhouse variant being introduced in the sixth generation Galant (running from late 1980s to early 1990s).

The Galant VR-4 was originally introduced as Mitsubishi’s ‘rally rep’ homologation special in order to comply with Group A requirements. By the seventh generation, Mitsubishi had debuted the Lancer Evolution and the Galant VR-4 ditched the need to comply with rally homologation requirements, instead sporting a 2.0L V6 twin turbo engine. A lift back version known as the ‘Eterna’ was also available.

With the 8th generation Galant – the focus of today’s article – the lift back option from the previous generation was dropped, and a wagon (known in some markets as the ‘Galant Wagon’ but Legnum in Japan) was introduced instead.

As far as I’m aware, the Legnum was a JDM-specific model, whereas Legnum sold into markets like Europe were always marketed as the Galant Wagon. There wasn’t, to my knowledge, a VR-4 Galant wagon available in export markets. However, towards the tail end of the eighth Galant generation and owing to the popularity of the VR-4 as a grey market import, some markets such as Hong Kong and the United Kingdom received a very small number of ‘official’ new cars to sell.

An interesting fact about the eighth generation Galant/Legnum is that it was the first mass-produced car to use a gasoline direct injection engine. Mitsubishi started pushing GDI technology heavily at this point, and there were some initial reliability problems with various engines across their model range but ultimately it was a technological improvement.

By this point in time, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution (Evo) was firmly established as Mitsubishi’s “rally rep” car – whereas the earlier Galant VR-4 had filled this role – and so the company was able to drop the requirement to comply with rally specs and pump up the engine size and introduce other features. In effect, the Galant/Legnum VR-4 was intended to be a more mainstream performance vehicle; impressive in the straight line and around the bends, but less hard-edged than the Evo and offering a more balanced approach to everyday performance.

Legnum VR-4 Specifications

At a basic level, all Legnum VR-4s (which shared components with the Galant VR-4 sedans) had the following:

  • GA13TT 2.5L V6 24v twin turbo engine producing between 256-276hp depending on exact model (pre-facelift auto cars produced the lower horsepower figure)
  • Five speed manual or five speed “INVECS-II” automatic transmission with tiptronic function
  • Four wheel drive
  • Antilock brakes

Depending on the exact model, your Legnum VR-4 might have twin or quad airbags, leather interior, Recaro interior trim, and wood effect trim.

In terms of interior trim and specs, there were numerous options available, some of which I’ll cover later in this article. However, across all builds the Legnum VR-4 was a relatively luxurious place to spend time considering the era; far superior to the Evos of the time in the comfort and refinement stakes.

As with all JDM performance cars, there are some confusing option packages/spec levels (they never make it easy, do they?). These options relate to some extra trick suspension technology, power output and trim/accessories.

Firstly, it’s important to understand that the Legnum/Galant VR-4 received a facelift and refresh in 1998.

The pre-facelift car (1996/1997) could be had with either the five speed tiptronic or five speed manual, with manual cars having 20hp extra over the tiptronic. According to this VR4 Wiki resource, the pre-facelift autos were “Type S” cars.

Depending on exactly which transmission option was optioned, the VR-4 could dispatch a 0-100kph sprint in anywhere from 5.3-6 seconds. Even by today’s standards, these cars are quick.

All pre-facelift cars, regardless of transmission, featured ‘Active Yaw Control’/AYC technology. From what I can gather, tiptronic pre-facelift cars also had traction control and stability control whereas manual cars did not. I’m happy to be corrected in the comment section, however, as there seems to be a bit of conflicting information about this.

With the facelift in 1998, all models and transmissions came with the full 276hp (complying – on paper – with the Japanese ‘gentleman’s agreement’). Sometimes this is quoted as 280hp … what matters more is that all models had the same output. Supposedly Mitsubishi realised that adding an extra bit of horsepower and torque to the tiptronic gearbox wouldn’t do any extra damage, so they bumped up the output.

All facelift cars enjoyed a redesigned front bumper with twin fog lights, a new tail lamp assembly and tailgate finishing as well as some other changes.

With the facelift, the range was split into two main spec levels:

  • Legnum VR-4 Type V
  • Legnum VR-4 Type S

Fundamentally, the Type V was the ‘base’ VR-4 and the Type S was the higher spec model.

In terms of differences between the Type V and Type S Legnum:

  • Type V does not have Active Yaw Control, having instead a standard rear diff
  • Type V has a more basic gauge cluster as opposed to the ‘hi vis’ cluster
  • Type V Legnum was auto/tiptronic (for the Galant sedan, manual was only available in Type V – so if you want a Type S manual on this platform it needs to be a Legnum)
  • Type S cars have flared wheel arch guards
  • Type S cars have different wheels
  • Buyers could specify Recaro seats and Momo airbag steering wheel, as well as other trim options

You can fairly quickly tell a Type V from a Type S based on the flared arches.

The automatic/tiptronic version sold better than the manual, with buyers enjoying the sophisticated driving experience and added convenience for little sacrifice in terms of performance (particularly on facelift cars with the higher power output). The INVECS-II gearbox really was a clever unit for its time.

According to my friend Tim from J Cars, there actually one “unicorn” facelift Type V Legnum sold with manual transmission and no AYC – you can read more about that here. Otherwise all post-facelift Type V Legnum were auto, except for this one example that may have been a production error or some kind of special order.

As previously mentioned, if I’ve got something wrong on the spec levels and options on offer, feel free to correct me in the comment section.

Special Models

Further compounding the confusing spec list is that at various points there were a couple of special edition, limited run models available:

  • Car Of The Year Edition – This was a pre-facelift special model Legnum that was intended to recognise the Legnum’s winning of “Japanese Car of the Year”. COTY was available in white with black leather interior, and featured a Nardi wood grain wheel and some stickers. Apparently all COTY editions were automatic, but there are some that have been swapped to manual. 

  • Super VR-4 – Released in 1998, this is the Galant/Legnum that people tend to get excited about. The Super VR-4 had series 1 specs but featured a raft of aesthetic changes including a special body kit, Recaro seats and Moms wheel, red carpet and model-specific floor mats, a different hi-vis gauge cluster, and Ralli-Art exhaust (as well as a few other changes). Paint colours were silver or the rarer red. Think of the Super VR-4 as a dressed-up pre-facelift car. Legnum Supers are more common than Galants. There were a total of 800 units of this particular variant. 
Super VR-4 spec Legnum in silver (I don’t love the Super bodykit, but if I had to pick one I’d have it in silver as opposed to red which is very gaudy)

Should You Buy A Legnum VR-4?

To recap, the Legnum VR4 is a bit of an “unsung hero” in my opinion and is well worthy of consideration. This would be particularly so if you are shopping around for something like a Subaru Legacy GT or even a European fast wagon of the era such as the Volvo 850R. 

Although Mitsubishi’s most desirable performance range has always been the Evo with its genuine rally pedigree (let’s not forget, however, that the Galant upon which the Legnum is based had rally heritage of its own) the Legnum VR-4 is an appealing ‘modern classic’ for anyone who wants a genuine blend of space, pace and luxury, at least by the standards of the late 1990s.

The fast wagon is an automotive category that deserves more respect and praise. A Legnum VR-4 will easily carry a family, plus luggage, and tear up most other cars on the road in the process.

A car like this really ‘does it all’, being modern enough to enjoy on a daily basis with most of the important creature comforts, while being a rare piece of JDM automotive history and being a total riot to drive.

However, don’t kid yourself into thinking a Legnum VR-4 will be particularly cheap to run just because it’s a practical car from a reliable Japanese brand. These cars were thirsty when new, and are relatively complex meaning there is potential for some big repair bills. Routine maintenance won’t be the cheapest either, although as with all off these modern classics you can substantially reduce the cost by doing more of it yourself.

I wouldn’t get too caught up on having a manual Legnum over the INVECS-II equipped automatic. The auto was the more popular option when this car was sold new, and you’ll have far more buying options if you consider an auto. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the INVECS-II gearbox was, for its time, a sophisticated and competent option. This was a cutting edge car in its day.

I also wouldn’t pay over the odds for a “Super VR-4”. The few I’ve seen for sale in my local market recently commanded a massive price premium over the normal VR-4, but ultimately you’re paying a lot more for what is a fairly ugly bodykit, at least in my opinion. If you can get a Super VR-4 for a reasonable price, then go for it, but ultimately I wouldn’t be so fussed on what exact specification you are buying and instead get the best VR4 you can for your budget in terms of condition and service history, and then feel free to modify if you do have a need for more power, better handling etc. Supers seem to sell for far more money than the mechanically superior Type S facelift cars, which are also better and more subtle looking.

A dream spec for me would be a post-facelift manual Type S Legnum with cloth interior (I’ve always liked wagons more than sedans, and as a JDM car enthusiast I reject the evils of leather interiors) but ultimately it’s better to go for a good example of any spec/trim level.

Instead, go out and find the best condition and most genuine VR-4 Legnum you can find for your budget (and if you don’t really need the wagon shape, consider the Galant VR-4 sedan as well as mechanically they are the same underneath – this will give you more buying options).

If you’ve owned a Legnum (or Galant) VR-4, then I’d love to hear about your experiences. Feel free to leave a comment in the comments section below, or you can email

As previously mentioned, I also welcome any corrections and suggestions with respect to the accuracy of this article. 

References & Further Reading


  • Sam

    Sam focuses mainly on researching and writing the growing database of Car Facts articles on Garage Dreams, as well as creating interesting list content. He is particularly enthusiastic about JDM cars, although has also owned numerous European vehicles in the past. Currently drives a 3rd generation Suzuki Swift Sport, and a Volkswagen Touareg (mainly kept for taking his border collie out to the hills to go walking)

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6 thoughts on “Mitsubishi Legnum VR-4 – A Fast JDM Family Wagon”

  1. Hey mate.
    I had a Legnum manual with AYC 98 model from memory. Great engine, pulled hard. Put a HDI intercooler with exhaust and sounded unreal.
    Quite a bit of body roll so had heaps of Cusco braces. Should have kept it.

    • Sounds like a great car. Legnums are hard to find and getting expensive now so definitely something to hold on to if anybody else is reading. What are you driving now?

  2. I just picked up a 1999 VR4 Type S that has the full load—Recaro seats, Momo wheel, front and rear strut tower braces; a subframe brace plus rear support that mounts between B-pillars (on the floor behind the front seat). The Mitsubishi Legnum rips—and handles AMAZING for a big booty wagon. That being said; I also have a Nissan Stagea, but the community following of the Stagea is a thousand times that of the Legnum; so finding customization parts is a nightmare for the Legnum because there’s no community drive.

    • Sounds like an amazing car, very jealous … I love the Legnum and the Galant VR-4 and would have one in a heartbeat if I can find a good one. I know what you mean about community though, Nissans just seem to automatically attract a bigger, more engaged community for some reason. If you’ve got photos of the Legnum and are happy to share them (can blank out licence plate etc of course) email and we can share.

  3. Ive owned a 2001 mitsubishi legnum vr4 type s facelift and to be honest one of the best cars I’ve ever owned,unfortunatley the transmission lucked out and now I’ve got to sell ???? can’t afford to fix im sad about it

    • Hi John, thanks for taking the time to comment. I’m sorry to hear about that. Was it a manual or an automatic? Also where are you based? (somewhere in NZ I’m guessing from the email address)


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